In July, my social media feeds were mostly silent. My blog was also quiet.
I had taken a break from social media and blogging.
The rules of my break were simple:
Thou shalt not check/post/comment on personal social media channels during working hours and from 8pm-8am.
Thou shalt take a break from posting blog posts.
Thou shalt not walk and look at your smartphone at the same time.
Thou shalt not use your smart phone in the train or any other moving vehicle.
Thou shalt put away your phone during meals with people
Why I took a break
For a while now, I felt frazzled and unfocused. I felt mentally exhausted and wound up.
Social media was the first thing I checked in the morning and the last thing I checked at night. As a digital communications professional, I was essentially the company’s social media manager who scheduled, came up with posts & monitored social media feeds all day.
After work, I would hop onto social media to scroll through my feeds. Sometimes I would do that right before I fall asleep!
Basically, that meant that I was checking/posting/scrolling through feeds every hour I was awake.
Social media managers are enduring the brunt of this. There are many well-documented downsides of being a social media manager and how the “always on” mentality is causing many to burn out. Arik Hanson, who blogs about the “converging worlds of PR, communications, search and social media”, even predicted that many SMMs would leave the profession due to this.
A social media detox is not the answer
Many bloggers and thought leaders advocate a “digital detox” - removing the apps from your phone or not touching social media for weeks or months.
This brand of “digital minimalism” may not be applicable, or even possible, for many people.
For one, since my job involves writing blog posts, managing websites and my company’s five social media channels, a complete ban would be impossible (unless I want a pink slip).
Also, I felt it was better to learn how to co-exist peacefully with social media and web technology than to avoid it completely. Avoidance is pretty difficult in the age where social media and smartphones is such a big part of our lives.
Besides switching off all notifications (which I’ve done ages ago before the break), I set firm rules on how to interact with social media for myself. (See above) The rules are simple really:
Schedule time for social media use.
Don’t check social media when you are doing something else - such as when having dinner with loved ones or while travelling.
Don’t use social media first thing in the morning and right before bed.
My rules meant that I had a tiny sliver of time where I could use social media for personal use - mainly lunch time or an hour after work. A lot of times, I go through lunch reading a book instead of going through my news feed. And sometimes, I would opt to take a walk - without my smartphone - after work instead.
How my social media “break” changed me
I became less anxious and frazzled
As I scroll through the news feeds, I experienced a gamut of emotions: FOMO, jealousy, worry, anger, frustration, happiness, joy …. this emotional seesawing throughout the day wasn’t good for my nerves at all. Giving myself clear periods of time when I can use social media gave my nerves a break.
My commute is far more enjoyable
I used to compulsively scroll through feeds when I’m in the train. As a person who gets motion sickness easily, this was a recipe for an unpleasant journey. Now, I stare out of the window and enjoy the scenery. In fact, I find the act quite meditative, and consider it my daily act of mindfulness. (Yes, it’s quite possible to meditate in a train!). Now, I actually actually look forward to my train rides, and I often get to work happier and calmer.
I am sleeping better
Perhaps it has something to do with me quitting caffeine & turning to tea at the same time, but I get a full 8 hours of sleep these days. Before, I used to wake up a few times at night.
I feel more in control, less like an addict
It used to disturb me how much I can’t seem to stop looking at that small, glowing screen. i didn’t want to, but I couldn’t help myself. The more I read about the damaging effects of smartphone use, the more I wonder how I could wean myself off its addictive properties. Now, my new rules act like a behavioural guide, a “how to use the smartphone healthily” list, if you like.
After a month of practicing my new social media habits, i’m confident that I’m able to practice this for the rest of my life.
How about you? Have you thought about taking a break from social media?